ached, And UnemotioAlbert Camus’ The Stranger: Meursault Is Aloof, Detached, and UnemotionalIn The Stranger, Albert Camus portrays Meursault, the book’s narratorand main character, as aloof, detached, and unemotional. He does not thinkmuch about events or their consequences, nor does he express much feeling inrelationships or during emotional times. He displays an impassivenessthroughout the book in his reactions to the people and events described in thebook. After his mother’s death he sheds no tears; seems to show no emotions.
He displays limited feelings for his girlfriend, Marie Cardona, and shows noremorse at all for killing an Arab. His reactions to life and to peopledistances him from his emotions, positive or negative, and from intimaterelationships with others, thus he is called by the book’s title, “thestranger”. While this behavior can be seen as a negative trait, there is ayoung woman who seems to want to have a relationship with Meursault and aneighbor who wants friendship. He seems content to be indifferent, possiblyprotected from pain by his indifference.
Meursault rarely shows any feeling when in situations which would, formost people, elicit strong emotions. Throughout the vigil, watching over hismother’s dead body, and at her funeral, he never cries. He is, further,depicted enjoying a cup of coffee with milk during the vigil, and having asmoke with a caretaker at the nursing home in which his mother died. Thefollowing day, after his mother’s funeral, he goes to the beach and meets aformer colleague named Marie Cardona. They swim, go to a movie, and then spendthe night together.
Later in their relationship, Marie asks Meursault if hewants to marry her. He responds that it doesn’t matter to him, and if shewants to get married, he would agree. She then asks him if he loves her. Tothat question he responds that he probably doesn’t, and explains that marriagereally isn’t such a serious thing and doesn’t require love. This reaction isfairly typical of Meursault as portrayed in the book.
He appears to be casualand indifferent about life events. Nothing seems to be very significant to him. Later on in the book, after he kills an Arab, not once does he show anyremorse or guilt for what he did. Did he really feel nothing? Camus seems toindicate that Meursault is almost oblivious and totally unruffled and untouchedby events and people around him. He is unwilling to lie, during his trial,about killing the Arab. His reluctance to get involved in defending himselfresults in a verdict of death by guillotine.
Had Meursault been engaged in hisdefense, explaining his actions, he might have been set free. Meursault’s unresponsive behavior, distant from any apparent emotions,is probably reinforced by the despair which he sees open and feelingindividuals experience. He observes, for example, Raymond cheated on and hurtby a girlfriend, and sees his other neighbor, Salamano, very depressed when heloses a dear companion, his dog. Meursault’s responses are very different, hedoesn’t get depressed at death nor does he get emotionally involved. Heappears to be totally apathetic.
Thus, he seems to feel no pain and isprotected from life’s disappointments. Sometimes a person like Meursault can be appealing to others because he isso non-judgmental and uncritical, probably a result of indifference rather thansympathetic feelings. His limited involvement might attract some peoplebecause an end result of his distance is a sort of acceptance of others, thushe is not a threat to their egos. Raymond Sintes, a neighbor who is a pimp,seems to feel comfortable with Meursault.
Sintes does not have to justifyhimself because Meursault doesn’t comment on how Sintes makes money or how hechooses to live his life. Even though Meursault shows no strong emotions ordeep affection, Marie, his girlfriend, is still attracted and interested in him. She is aware of, possibly even fascinated by, his indifference. Despite theseemingly negative qualities of this unemotional man, people nevertheless seemto care for him.
There are individuals who, because of different or strange behavior,might be outcasts of society, but find, in spite of or because of theirunconventional behavior, that there are some people who want to be a part oftheir lives. Meursault, an asocial person is such an individual. His behavior,while not antagonistic or truly antisocial, is distant, yet it does not get inthe way of certain relationships. While there are some people who might findsuch relationships unsatisfying and limited, Meursault and those he isconnected to seem to be content with their “friendships”. His aloofness,though, may not have saved him from suffering.
It might actually have been thecause of the guilty verdict at his trial for killing the Arab. Withdrawingfrom involvement with people or life events might not mean total isolation orrejection but it does not necessarily protect an individual from pain or a badend.